When Sunday is a Problem

When Sunday is a Problem February 11, 2023

church benches with hymn books
image via pixabay


Sunday, and the day before, continue to be a problem.

I tried again to go to church– just a moment ago, actually.

Michael and Adrienne were getting ready to go to the vigil Mass, the only Mass where you can take a bus to get there since the Steubenville buses don’t run on Sundays. I wanted to go as well, just to see if I could. I hopped into one of my frumpy modest skirts and a pair of tights and went to wait on the porch, but then the panic rose in my throat again and I choked.

I am still choking right now.

I keep feeling the anxiety rising my throat and I keep trying to breathe around it.

I feel every bad thing that’s ever happened to me cascading over me like the walls of a burning building. I also feel every threat of hell that’s ever been made cascading over me. Both the real things that have happened in the Catholic Church and the promise of even more terrible things if I don’t toe the line.  The white-hot shame of spiritual abuse and the white-hot coals of the inferno. They feel about the same.

Michael and Adrienne are riding the bus now. I’m home on the sofa with the guinea pig, still wearing my modest skirt, still trying to get my breath to go back to normal. I tried. I don’t know if I’ll try tomorrow when the Vigil Mass was such a failure. I don’t know if I’ll try next Sunday or not. I am tired of trying.

I’m really grateful to the people who pop in to remind me that PTSD is a genuine injury, and sickness and injury are a legitimate excuse to miss the Sunday Obligation. That’s good of them to reassure me. It’s nice to know they’re thinking of me and don’t want me to feel bad. But I’m going to say something a bit controversial here: I think there’s something wrong with the Sunday Obligation.

I have given myself permission to doubt everything that I’ve been catechized to believe, to test everything, and to retain what is good. And I do not see goodness in a god who says “You’d better have a legitimate excuse to miss dinner at my house this Sunday with my family, because if you don’t, I’m going to torture you in the basement forever.” 

That doesn’t make any sense to me.

Why would anyone worship a god so abusive? Why wouldn’t you find it a badge of honor to ignore that tyrant?

I’ve been saying for over a year now that a god who isn’t a God of Love isn’t worth my time, and you’ve been encouraging me. And if my understanding of the Sunday Obligation is correct, I don’t see a God of Love in the Sunday Obligation. Maybe I’ve just got the whole thing wrong, but that’s how it seems to me.

I think a God of Love would say “I would like to feed you a meal that will be very good for you. I created you to be not just a spirit but also an animal with a body that is part of the natural world, because I created and love both the spiritual and natural worlds and I wanted the crown of my creation to participate in both. So I made that meal not only spiritual but also a physical thing you can eat. I created you to not be just a solitary creature but a creature who belongs to a family and a community, so you could better reflect my image as a Holy Trinity. So I made that meal not a sacrifice to be offered in private but a sacrifice to be celebrated in community, with things you find especially joyful like singing and sacred art and reading beautiful words. That is the plan I had for you. But since the world is fallen and very dark, things have gone wrong. I see that you are in horrible pain because of the community I made to bless you and for you to bless. I see that they rejected the unique blessing I put inside of you. I see that they hurt you so severely that you can’t stand the thought of entering my house or trying to sit at my table. I see that they misrepresented me to you, so they think I am angry with you and going to abuse you because you wouldn’t behave yourself at my house.  I will deal with them in time, and my perfect justice will satisfy you while still giving them the chance to become a person who wouldn’t do that. In the meanwhile, I am coming to your house with a tray of food and I will feed you right there, and we’ll have a talk. And if you can’t stand to eat or talk with me, I’ll just sit with you while you watch television and play video games and try to forget what day of the week it is. I will not get impatient or upset. And if all you can do is sit in bed and flash back and cry, I’ll cry with you. And if you can’t stand the thought of me, I won’t force myself on you. But I’m not going to let you suffer alone. And one day when this is all over, we will go to my real house, the one in Heaven with a mansion just for you, where I will heal you and teach you to see Me as I am, and none of these people who claimed to speak for Me will ever interfere with that.” 

A God of Love is the only God worth my time.

A god who is a set of trip wires you have to jump over so you don’t go to hell, is a god smaller than I am. I refuse to worship a god smaller than I am.

I have not discovered the God of Love in the places I was told He would be.

I think a God of Love is worth searching for. But a God of Love is also searching for me, so I don’t have to search as hard as I expected.

Maybe I’ll just sit here and feel terrible for awhile.

Maybe that’s all I need to do right now.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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